The most European of Russian cities, it’s hard to believe that St. Petersburg is the result of Peter the Great’s bright idea to build his new capital in the heart of a massive marshland. It turns out it was a moment of inspiration: St. Petersburg has become indisputably one of the most beautiful spots in Europe.
If you enjoy your architecture, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in your own personalized heaven from the moment you touch down. From the 96 columns of the startling Kazansky Cathedral to the Church of the Resurrection (based on the fairytale peaks of St. Basils in Moscow), you’ll find yourself wandering amongst a neoclassical and baroque mish-mash that stuns at almost every turn. You can gaze on all of it by taking one of the famed "roof tours."
There’s plenty more history to uncover beside the pretty buildings, too. St. Petersburg has always had a westward leaning, revolutionary tinge to it, and you can learn about the city’s hefty role in the Russian Revolution, the dawn of Communism (and its eventual end) and the ushering in of democracy. It’s all laid bare at The Hermitage, which has a striking blue-green and white façade, and is as fairytale-like as the nearby Dvortsovyi Bridge, a stunning arch crossing over the Neva River.
The wide-open spaces – in the form of gaping squares and wide, lengthy boulevards – are another key feature to this beguiling city. Take a stroll down the three-mile-long Nevskiy Prospekt Avenue and you’ll pass many of the city’s defining features, including monuments, crosses, rivers and canals as you traverse what was once a route through the bog land into the very heart of this epic and memorable city.
St Petersburg might not be typically Russian, but you can still sip vodka and crunch your way through caviar to your hearts content, and you’ll find the ambience and architecture hard to match. At the heart of summer the sun barely sets, and at winter there’s a permanent gray tinge to even the heart of the day, but not even the dingy winters can detract from a city that visitors just never forget.